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White Walls: Inspired or Institutional?

The last time I had to pick paint colours for our home, I was bursting at the seams with Stella in my belly and living in my parents’ basement while Hubby frantically finished major renovations on our house. I don’t remember it being all that difficult. I went to the local Benjamin Moore store and picked up a few swatches and called it a day.

But now? It’s 10 years later and we moved into a new house last summer. And now I am paralyzed with indecision. PARALYZED.

I think this has to do with the fact that our house is so “open concept” and that one colour will need to be used virtually everywhere because there are no natural breaks for one colour to start and another to end. And I don’t want to pick the wrong colour!

Sure, people say, “Oh, it’s just paint. You can just paint over it if you don’t like it.” Um, no, that’s not happening here. Hubby will do paint once. That’s it. No second chances. (And I don’t blame him one bit. It’s a big, tedious job!)

Beyond the paint colours, I was just as flummoxed about what to do about furniture choices and placement, curtains, carpets … well, just about everything! I reached out to my friend Andrea who writes for a number of home design magazines (or “Shelter mags,” I think the cool folks say!) to see if she could recommend an interior designer. And that’s how I came to have Tanya Collins over at our home one night. I was a bit nervous to even have her over — we’re in the ‘burbs not Westboro or the Glebe, and the house is virtually void of furniture since our last home was half the size (or maybe even a third; let’s just say it was very small!).

Anyhow, I shouldn’t have been because Tanya whirled her way right in and rolled up her sleeves. Immediately, she seemed to have a vision for how the whole main floor could play out. I just loved her! She had no pretensions about her and she clearly just loved her work so much. She was only here for two hours, but every minute was worthwhile.

For paint colour on the walls, she said “White.” No if’s, but’s, or maybe’s — white.

I was concerned … wouldn’t it look too stark? Cold? She said that our artwork would really “pop,” with white walls and that the art, furniture, and carpet would provide the colour and warmth.

Then she referred back to some of the magazine pictures I’d torn our to share with her, “See! In all the pictures here, they have white walls!” And true enough, they did all have white walls. Here are some examples, to give you an idea:

I’m obsessed with art walls!
This image was sourced on Pinterest and links back to  Hopscotch + Grace and then eventually links back to the following photo credit: Graciela Cattarossi.

media console, off centre tv

This image was sourced on Pinterest and links back to Emily Henderson.

She then pulled out colour swatches and started showing me different whites. Honestly, to me white is white is white. I can’t tell the difference! And neither can Hubby. So she made an executive decision and determined that our choice for walls was Benjamin Moore Cloud White.

cloud white.jpg

BM Cloud White

After she left, I felt elated and relieved that the decision was made. Our place would look fabulous! Our place would look like the photos in the magazines that I liked!

But then, a friend came over: she didn’t think that white walls suited us. And another friend who has an excellent eye for colour stayed silent when I told her. Hmmm …

Then, to top it all off, the Benjamin Moore guy says to me, “White walls? No, you won’t like white walls!”

Now, I start to back-peddle into indecision. *sigh* I don’t like indecision!

So I reached out to my fellow blogger Giulia over at Fishly News. She often does posts about her home and I really admire her design savvy. Coincidentally, she had just used Cloud White paint in her bathroom makeover. You can see it here in the white stripes.

Photo credit: Fishly News. Source.

Giulia immediately batted away my fears about white paint and told me in an email:

I think Cloud White is a great idea. It’s actually a warm white with a creamy undertone without being yellow.  So if you use Cloud White it should not be stark, but it will be fresh.

So, I think I’m going to go for it! White walls … with children … hard to say if the walls are institutional or just me!


  1. NK_StyleingwithChildren says:

    Julie, I LOVE white. You can make it what you want it to be. Eclectic, traditional, industrial or modern. Every style works and works well. It is perfect for large open spaces because you do not feel like there’s too much colour going on before you even brought in your furniture.

    White is a bit “new” and not the traditional choice. So some if the skepticism might come from that. I have, unfortunately, learned to keep my design choices to myself. I love the results, but can do without the raised eyebrows :) if you know what I mean :)

    Hope you will show us the results of your hard work!

    • Okay, so you are the woman who is styling with kids, so I have to ask … have you painted your walls white? Pictures and links please! :)

      • NK_StyleingwithChildren says:

        Julie, I have painted our master bedroom & by 2.5 year old’s bedroom white. So far these are the only semi finished rooms in the entire house. oh, and the finished basement has been painted a very very very light gray/blue. Almost white. 

        I don’t have “after” photos of the master bedroom, I’m hoping to have them soon (we’re just finishing up a few things), but I have a few “interim” photos for you 

        I also have a few posts up about my daughter’s room. I’ve done one entire wall of huge pink poppies (Marimekko Unikko pattern) and the rest of the walls are white white white! :) 

        link to basement photos: 

        What I DO have to say about painting walls white is it has a lot to do with what your furniture and flooring is/will be in the room(s). We chose natural oak for the floors. They add a TON of warmth. Also, our furniture not black. I find that white walls with black furniture DO look very cold. We tend to choose natural wood finishes whenever possible. This way the house is more light/organic than cold/industrial/sterile. 

        I also LOVE oversized original art. I have a lot of it and will be investing into more throughout my life. So the walls for me are the perfect backdrop.

        For accent colours I prefer bright or very saturated colours. Nothing timid. No beige here. It is either in-your-face pink or charcoal gray.

        Have to say this: a good white will read very different in shadows and depending on what other colours you have in the room. Don’t buy paint from Home Depot, get Benjamin more or go to Randall’s. Expensive paint has more colours mixed in (even in your white) and will have undertones, overtones and character that cheaper paints do not. I would trust your designer and not stray from the colours she picked for you. Speaking form experience here! :)

        White with kids? well…. I have to say this, I have a little girl. Sometimes she ruins things, somethings mom or dad ruin things. I have not had any issues with her and white walls. At all. And they are easy peasy to touch up. Not a problem at our house.

        The last thing I can say is, if in doubt, come over for tea and I’ll show you my master bedroom. And you see for yourself if white is for you :)

        PS. sorry for the long comment!!! :)))

        • I love, love, your master bedroom! Especially the wallpaper … which is one of my goals — to have one wallpapered wall in our master. I am still working on Hubby — he is not a fan of the wallpaper idea. But you are seriously painting a whole wall of individual flowers for your daughter’s room?? Wow, woman — I bow to you! :) That is very cool. And I love the effect of cheeriness and creativity it brings to the room.

          • says:

            Julie, BM paint, the Aura one is washable even in a mat finish( which is what you should use). Just grab a wet papertowel and you’re good..or magic eraser if it’s crayola:)
            I grew up in Europe and walls were white, we could not get coloured paint and maybe that’s why I’m drawn to light colour?

            • Coffee with Julie says:

              Hi Giulia, I should clarify that it’s not actually the ability to wash it off the paint that I’m worried about — it’s actually having to wash them off all the time because the prints show up more on the white. Our current walls are a light colour, but not white, and there are little finger prints EVERYWHERE all the time! So much so, that we simply can’t be bothered to wash each one off each time! Perhaps I need to set aside an hour each week just for washing prints! :) 

  2. White walls always remind me of apartments.  They aren’t for me…plus there’s the children who have managed to make my brown walls grungy.  For me, white is more of an ‘idea’ haha!

    • Haha! What you said about apartments and white walls was similar to the Benjamin Moore guy I spoke with … he said that people “our” age don’t like white walls because we all grew up in houses with white walls because our parents thought they should never paint the walls in case of resale. I don’t actually remember that from my childhood, but I do remember white walls in apartments! :)

    • says:

      The first appartment I rented here in Canada had chocolate brown walls, purple walls and a green kitchen…no painting allowed:)

  3. after looking at her web site, I would say……. trust Tanya!  sister knows her stuff!

  4. I have cloud white in my hallway, which is small and narrow, but has natural light, and I love love love it so much I ended up painting my kitchen wall the same colour! (It’s a Benjamin Moore colour). I accent the white with colourful art the kids make, framed usually in white frames (cheap ones from ikea so I can really see the kids’ art). I recommend white especially in small rooms and accent with frames, art, or furniture and accessories.

    Having said that, having lived in Europe, everyone’s house is white. I loved the colours in people’s homes when we moved to Canada. So I have a case for both…all our rooms have natural colours (inspired by nature, so a lot of herby greens or mustardy yellows); still, the white is not something I’m complaining about.

    Looking forward to hearing how it turns out.

  5. i think it’s going to look awesome – can’t wait to see it!

  6. I LOVE Cloud White and I would love to paint my open concept house with it too but I haven’t been able to convince DH. I’m looking forward to your ‘after’ pictures for help persuading him. Go for it!!

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